Based on some of the recent announcements in the newspaper new media field, I get a sense that the profession has grown up in the last few months. Jobs in the field in the past have been filled mostly by reporters, editors and systems people with a technical bent and strong interest in the online world. Journalism skills were less important at many papers than knowing how to operate a BBS or manage a Web site. But that seems to be changing. Serious journalism is being done online, and less content from the print newsroom is being repurposed for the online product.
Witness this ad placed on the Internet last week by the Washington Post's Digital Ink division: "We are seeking a superior journalist to lead our ambitious Politics '96 efforts. This is a senior-level position that requires several years of journalism experience at top-flight organizations. Our Politics '96 chief will lead a staff of several online producers in planning and executing timely, deep, creative, and interactive coverage of the '96 campaign, using material from The Post and other sources."
Elsewhere, online news ventures are hiring journalists to produce content that will not appear on a printed page. News Corp./MCI's "News Center" Web service, launched last month, has attracted a top-flight team of reporters and editors, most of them from the print journalism world. News Center is headed by Jonathan Miller, formerly of The Times of London, and is among the first online news ventures to be staffed by a team of seasoned reporters and editors who do more than package copy from wire services.
O'Reilly and Associates' Web Review is another online-only news source, headed by David Hipschman, formerly of the San Francisco Chronicle.
I am heartened by this trend. It shows that online news is coming out of the gee-whiz phase, as media companies shift some of their best journalism talent to write for new media. While technical skills and a willingness to adapt to a new medium are critical, so too is hard-core journalism talent. More and more journalists are realizing the important role that new media will play in their careers, and the more adventurous among them are beginning to make the jump to join their already-hooked colleagues online.
More and more, consumers will find high-quality journalism that is not available on the printed page. This is what it will take for the online news industry to come into its own.
Newspaper new media consultant Mindy McAdams recently fired off this message to theonline-news Internet list:
"Think of how many newspapers have folded. There are experienced, old-school editors and writers out looking for work. An Internet news service could put together a crack team without too much effort, especially if they were paying decently.
"The newspapers shouldn't think they have a monopoloy on quality reporting -- they have fired and laid off so many people in recent years, the quality is out there just waiting to be hired."
Family World to expand Web service
Last week I reported from the Media Alliances conference in San Diego. Just yesterday, a press release came across my fax machine reporting on an alliance that is making the online service of a small group of parenting newspapers into a bigger deal than they could hope to do alone.
Family World Online, a Web service acquired by Disney Online in August 1995, will be expanded to combine the resources of 40 parenting newspapers around the U.S. and Disney-owned magazines FamilyFun and FamilyPC. This is a good example of an alliance that benefits both parties: Family World gets national content from a well-known company, and Disney gets added exposure for its fledgling online services among the parents already connected to the Family World service.
The original concept behind Family World was to provide localized parenting information via a national network of affiliate publications.
Steve Got a tip? Let me know about it
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This column is written by Steve Outing and underwritten by Editor & Publisher magazine. Tips, letters and feedback can be sent to Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org